The Other Side of Animation 170: Arctic Dogs Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Okay, let’s get this out of the way. This review is about Arctic Dogs. Directed by Aaron Woodley, produced by Assemblage Entertainment, AIC Studios, and Ambi Media Group, and distributed by Entertainment Studios, this is yet another film in a long line of films to make ya wonder how on earth this got into theaters. Originally announced back in 2015 as Arctic Justice: Thunder Squad, this CGI animated feature was set to release January 2018. Unfortunately, the first distributors of this venture, Open Road Films, went bankrupt, and then the film was picked up by Entertainment Studios, the same distributor that put out 47 Meters Down, the sequel 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, Chappaquiddick, The Hurricane Heist, Hostiles, and the classic horror film you forgot existed, Friend Request. Word of mouth among the animation community spread as the founder of Entertainment Studios, Byron Allen, took interest in animation, but had no real idea or concern about what went into making profitable animated features.

Even after promising a proper marketing plan for this flick, and being released November 1st when films like The Addam’s Family was starting to lose its legs in theaters, Arctic Dogs bombed at the box office. Reportedly on a budget of $50 mil, Arctic Dogs has, as of writing this article, only brought in $3 million. It is now the spot holder for the biggest failure to open in over 2,000 theaters, or so some comments and articles have made out. So, we have an animated film that took forever to make, being greenlit by people who never worked in animation, being distributed by a guy who has no money left in this film distribution venture, directed by a guy with already one animation bomb in his filmography, having to deal with questionably intelligent people above him, and it bombed hard, opening in 10th place. Yeah, let’s just pick up our plate of vegetables your mom told you to eat, and get this over with.

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Our story revolves around an arctic fox named Swifty, voiced by Jeremy Renner. He dreams of becoming one of the mail delivery dogs that are the talk of the town and the cream of the crop. Unfortunately, due to his size, he is constantly told that he can’t be a delivery dog by his boss, Magda, voiced by Anjelica Huston. He ends up working the assembly line with his pal PB, voiced by Alec Baldwin and Lemmy, voiced by James Franco. One day, he gets tasked with taking a package by his fox friend Jade, voiced by Heidi Klum to a base way out in the tundra. Swifty ends up encountering a walrus scientist named Otto Van Walrus, voiced by John Cleese. Swifty finds out Walrus’ evil plan, and it is up to him and his friends to find a way to prevent Walrus from destroying their home and the world using “BAD Gas.”

The biggest hurdle with dealing with films like Arctic Dogs is that there is not a whole lot to talk about with worthwhile substance to it. There are only so many times you can say, there is nothing to this movie!  Arctic Dogs is an animated film that lacks ambition. Animation-wise, the film looks better than most of the low-grade flicks that somehow end up in theaters, but for a film that supposedly cost $50 mil, I’m finding it hard to believe that it cost that much. Maybe a lot of it went to the cast, which explains why the animation is so lifeless. There are low-grade textures, stiff movements, incorrectly executed physical comedy, and the film lacks the small animation details that would have given it more blood pumping through its veins. It’s one of those animated films that give CGI animation a bad name. It also doesn’t help that the designs are boring as tar. There is no life to them, and they look like stock assets in an animation program. Walrus looks the best, but it’s not enough to save a bland looking film. You can make great looking animation done on a non-Disney/Pixar budget, but it takes really good art direction to pull that off, and that isn’t the case here. It may somehow have cost $50 mil to make, but the film’s visuals tell you otherwise. Even the concept art for this film looked better.

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So, the animation is of poor quality, but what about the characters and the cast? Surely, you can make up for a bad animated feature with good writing and memorable characters? Yeah, no you can’t. Maybe a better writer could have done more with this film’s climate change commentary, but there is no substance to it. The characters are all boring family film archetypes, and no one stands out as memorable. Jeremy Renner is probably the biggest get for this film, but this is not a good performance for him. The way he talks and acts in the film makes me think this was meant for a younger actor like Zac Efron. It also doesn’t help that he has some hefty abuse allegations against him right now, so, yeah. The rest of the cast is also not very compelling. James Franco is sleepwalking through this flick, Heidi Klum’s character could have easily been played by a voice actress with more energy, and I almost like Alec Baldwin’s take on PB, but then I remember how invested he was in films like The Boss Baby and Rise of the Guardians, and realize that he, like Franco, sleepwalks through the film. It’s even funnier seeing Angelica Huston in the cast, as of the reveal of this film’s existence, she was bad-mouthing older actresses for being in stuff like Poms, while she considers herself as an “art-only” actress. Yeah, explain to me how this soulless animated film is art, ya hypocrite. John Cleese is the only one having any fun, but that’s because he’s playing a 1-dimensional villain and is the only one to have fun with his character.

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The writing and pacing of the film are whiplash-inducing. The film has such a stop and start way of going about its scenes, that it felt like the story had to pause for jokes, then story, then clunky bonding dialogue, story, joke, story, the lead character looks like a giant jerk, and so on. It never felt fluid or made me want to invest in what was going on. I would love to know the process of writing this script because it comes off like it was very “this is our first major film script”. Nothing about the dialogue feels like there was an effort to make it witty or clever.

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When I saw Arctic Dogs, I wondered whether it was going to be worse, or on par with Wonder Park, the film that has held my worst animated film of 2019 spot since March. I had to ask myself if being more ambitious, but failing every step of the way was better or worse than setting out what you wanted to do, but being completely bland and forgettable. Well, I have to say, Wonder Park has now been dethroned by Arctic Dogs. I couldn’t stand Arctic Dogs. I feel badly for any trouble the director and animators had to deal with while working on this film, and please do not go after them if you did not like this film. It’s not as bad as other cheap-animated films you see slide into theaters for no reason, but it’s not too far off as being one of the worst examples of such. I would say avoid this movie, but since no one is seeing it, you are already doing so. Save your money and wait for Frozen II and Spies in Disguise. Well then, I need something to liven up the mood a bit. I honestly had a hard time choosing what to review next, but how about we review some Netflix films next? I think that sounds like a good idea! Let’s talk about the new Holiday-favorite film, Klaus.

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: The Worst/Blacklist

The Other Side of Animation: A Cat in Paris Review

(If you like what you see, go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work. If you want to, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. Thanks for reading and enjoy the review!)

That’s right, viewers, we are back in Paris. However, we are not seeing A Monster in Paris, but we are reviewing A Cat in Paris. This 65-minute French-animated film was directed by Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli, and was produced by Folimage. If this company sounds familiar to foreign animated film buffs, this is the same studio that made Raining Cats and Frogs, and Mia and the Migoo, another distinctive-looking animated film. I decided to talk about this film since the creators behind A Cat in Paris have recently made a new movie, and, well, I’m excited! Let’s get on the catwalk and see how good this movie is!

A Cat in Paris is about a young girl and her police commissioner mother. The mother is voiced by Marcia Gay Harden, and she is currently trying to capture and arrest an evil crime boss named Victor Costa, voiced by J.B Blanc. While this is all happening, the young girl learns that her cat leaves the house at night to meet up with a cat burglar named Nico, who is voiced by the always great Steve Blum. A friendship grows between the young girl and Nico, they need to stop Victor Costa from getting a large artifact, and the police are all wrapped up in this plot!

Let’s begin with the good stuff. First off, for 65 minutes, the film does everything that makes a good crime thriller. It has a solid crime, some decent bad guys, some high stakes, likable characters that you want to see not get harmed, and a very atmospheric world. Seriously, the art style really brings you into the noir-style Paris. Its use of pastel-style colors really brings personality to the city night life. Some people might find the character designs a bit weird, but the animation is so beautiful and smooth. It’s a really stylish movie and it stands out among most animated films. I also like the character. Nico is a charming and rather friendly cat burglar, Victor Costa and his goons are goofy and entertaining, the mother’s relationship with her daughter is well done, and it can be pretty suspenseful at some points. It can also get really creative. For example, there is one scene later on in the film where Nico cuts the electricity to a house, and everything is just pitch-black inside the house where Costa is holding the girl hostage. Everyone is in this black background, and everyone walking around and talking are all simply white outlines. It’s hard to really explain, but it’s a fine example of creative 2D animation. The voice cast does a great job. I know you can say that Marcia Gay Harden has type-casted herself in this role due to her reoccurring role on Law & Order: SVU, but she pulls off being a tough cop and a loving mother. You even get a surprise performance by Angelica Huston, who plays the little girl’s nanny. For me, the performances of the goons, and Steve Blum as Nico steal the show.

 

Now, I can understand if people can’t get into this film’s story because of how simple it is, but for me, I don’t mind a simple plot if you execute it properly. My only real issue/non-issue with the film is that I wish it was longer. I feel like they could have fleshed out the relationship a little more with the mother and daughter, and maybe given a reason why Nico is a thief in the first place. Then again, I think they do execute these elements well, and maybe not dragging the length of the film out is for the better.

A Cat in Paris is an entertaining film. It might be short, and not as complex as some of the other films that GKIDS release, but in the end, it’s good to always have a fun movie to watch. It might be aimed more at a younger audience, but I would rather show A Cat in Paris over a lot of tripe that you see among animated films that are released in theaters. You can watch this on the American Netflix, but if you want to, go buy the Blu-ray/DVD combo to support the company so they can bring over more great films. You know, how about we talk about a Christmas special? I have an idea for one during the week of Christmas, but for now, how about we talk about a little guy known as Ziggy, and his wish with Ziggy’s Gift? Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Rating: Go See It!